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Pakistan federal shariat court's collective ijtihād on gender equality, women's rights and the right to family life
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2014, 00:00 authored by Ihsan YilmazIhsan Yilmaz
This article argues on the basis of recent case law that the judges of the Pakistan Federal Shariat Court (FSC) have asserted their right to ijtihād and have indeed engaged in collective ijtihād. While in some areas, such as freedom of religion, Islamic law has been interpreted rigidly in a non-human-rights-friendly fashion in Pakistan, in some other areas, the flexibility and pluralism of Islamic law has been used to improve gender equality, women's rights and the right to family life. By using its constitutional powers, with its collective ijtihād, the FSC has been tackling the traditionally illiberal interpretation and application of Muslim laws in these areas. Regardless of the methodology and process of this ijtihādic endeavor, the output shows that the FSC has been either modifying the traditional ijtihāds or coming up with totally new ijtihāds to answer contemporary questions faced by Islamic law. The findings of the article once again challenge the views of scholars such as Schacht, Coulson and Chehata, who have argued that, by the fourth/tenth century, the essentials of Islamic legal doctrine were already fully formulated and that the doctrine remained fixed.